Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd addressed the conference, saying that people are currently looking for something different and want to be part of something bigger and that hospices should engage with them to make the most of this. He spoke of the public’s trust in old institutions collapsing but that hospices remain trusted.
“Hospices are visible, loved and trusted – you can’t underestimate the value of importance of that,” Nick Hurd said.
He highlighted that politicians from all parties use glowing language about hospices and said: “You are Big Society in action.” He also encouraged nominations from the hospice movement for the Prime Minister’s Big Society Awards.
The minister spoke in the opening address at Community engagement: back to our future, where more than 325 delegates representing over 100 hospices gathered to discuss the challenges hospices face in the current changing environment and into the future.
Help the Hospices chief executive David Praill opened the day’s events, speaking of the origins of hospice care being developed by community groups.
“There is no doubt at all that hospice care was borne out of the community,” David said.
He also launched the iPad app of ehospice in his welcome, demonstrating how hospices can use ehospice to keep up to date on all the news from the sector, but also to share learning and engage with each other and their communities.
Time to prepare
Speaking before the minister in the opening address, director of policy for Help the Hospices Jonathan Ellis said hospices need to plan and strategise, individually, locally and collectively for the changes they face.
“It feels very frightening for people at the moment,” Jonathan said. “There is time to prepare but the time to prepare is right now.
“Most importantly we absolutely need to keep our communities with us. Our accountability is to our local communities – it has to be our central focus. It is our defining characteristic – it is what makes us unique.”
Nick Hurd MP said now is he time to act and that hospices start from a position of strength because they are “stitched into the fabric of the communities”.
Looking at the future
The conference also saw the launch of ‘Volunteers: vital to the future of hospice care’ from the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care, with chair of the commission Dame Clare Tickell and vice chair Dame Barbara Monroe speaking passionately about the changes and challenges affecting hospices and the work the commission is doing around this.
Clare Tickell said while the commission can’t offer a magic coat to protect hospices from everything, they can help in the new territory that hospices face. She stressed the importance of developing the hospice workforce and getting views from hospice users.
Barbara Monroe spoke about volunteering, saying that if hospices are going to meet needs with diminishing resources, volunteering is going to be vital. She also said that personal social care is a real business opportunity for hospices.
Day one of the two-day conference featured keynote speeches focused around the work being done on community engagement and the shared learning zone also offered an opportunity for delegates to hear about innovative projects being developed by hospices throughout the country to engage with their local communities in new ways.
Today (30 November 2012) hospice innovators were recognised with the presentation of the Help the Hospices and National Gardens Scheme Awards. Sister Frances Dominica, founder of Helen & Douglas House, received the Lifetime Achievement award for her dedication to children’s palliative care for more than three decades.
In presenting the award, David Praill described her as “a tireless campaigner for the children’s hospice movement and an inspirational human being”.
Sister Frances said: “After 30 years we are still on a steep learning curve and every family that comes to us teaches us something.” She described the moment when a family says ‘thank you, you made a real difference’ as both reason and reward for hospices doing what they do.
Evelyn Dalton, of Saint Francis Hospice in Romford, was awarded the Volunteer of the Year for ‘helping make things happen’ at Saint Francis Hospice for more than 25 years.
Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice and Hospice in the Weald were joint winners for the Innovation in Income Generation and Douglas Macmillan Hospice received the Innovation in Volunteering award for the use of volunteers in their Community Lodges project.
Presentations from the conference will be available on Help the Hospices website.